“Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?”
Alice asks the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” to which the Cheshire Cat replied, “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.”
That’s the question the Homer Advisory Planning Commission has on its agenda for its 6:30 p.m. meeting June 17. In a public hearing, the commission seeks comments on which option it should choose in connecting an east-west road between Heath Street and Lake Street. Which way do people want to go on the Waddell Way project? Do they want:
• Option A, linking up to Heath Street across from Grubstake Avenue and through a lot with nine cabins that would have to be purchased?
• Or, Option B, linking up to Heath Street across from Bonanza Avenue and through a lot owned by Homer Electric Association?
The other big question of how to pay for the project already has been answered. In 2014, Homer received a $1.4 million grant from the Alaska Legislature to build Waddell Way. The project also would upgrade a north-south section from the existing paved road at the U.S. Post Office to the east-west portion. A rough, unmaintained road connects to Lake Street but not to Heath Street.
In the regular session of the Alaska Legislature, the city had sought to reappropriate $600,000 of the Waddell Way grant for further design of its Public Safety Building. That idea failed, but the good news was that as legislators continue to try to fund a budget in a special session, they didn’t take back the entire grant.
The planning commission also seeks testimony on what kind of amenities should go along the road.
Do citizens want street lights? Do they want wide shoulders or sidewalks with wide shoulders and a bike lane?
“We’ll talk at the planning commission about making sure the street sets the bar at a reasonable place when it comes to bike- and pedestrian-friendly design,” said Homer Public Works Director Carey Meyer.
Both intersection options boil down to right-of-way acquisition, Meyer said.
At its June 3 meeting, the planning commission leaned toward Option A, the Grubstake Avenue link, but commissioner Shelly Erickson withdrew a motion favoring that option when planning department staff pointed out there was a second public hearing. In a staff report, City Planner Rick Abboud wrote that the comprehensive plan favored Option A. Meyer also supports that plan. He said Homer Electric Association also supports Option A and putting the east-west section south of HEA’s lot line.
The lot with nine cabins is owned by the Waddell family and up for sale. If the city bought the property, it could surplus the cabins, plat the road right-of-way and sell the unused portion of the lot, Meyer said.
“That’s why that scenario is cheaper from a right-of-way perspective,” he said.
Meyer said he hopes the city can come out of the planning commission meeting with a consensus that won’t require the Homer City Council to resolve any dispute. The council would have to approve any land purchase, so it has a role in the route selection process.
Once an option is decided, the city’s engineering contractor can proceed to 35-percent design of the road. Survey and soils testing already has been done, Meyer said. If all goes well, the city might be able to put the project out to bid in the late fall. If construction goes well, a gravel road could be in by freeze-up for people to start using. Paving could be done this year or in spring 2016.
“If we can get it paved, we will. At least we can get traffic moving along that corridor,” Meyer said.
Another question also needs to be answered: what to call the east-west and north-south parts of Waddell Way? Homer has two other roads named after the pioneering Waddell family, Waddell Street and Waddell Loop off Crittenden Drive near Bishop’s Beach, and would need new names to avoid confusion. At its June 3 meeting, the planning commission considered ideas like “Goldmine Way or Lane.” If it chose the Grubstake Avenue option, it also could extend the name across. The north-south section also would have a new street name.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waddell Way Public Hearing
Homer Advisory Planning Commission
6:30 p.m. June 17
Cowles Council Chamber,
What: Take testimony on two questions
• Should Waddell Way connect to Heath Street at Grubstake Avenue or Bonanza Avenue?
• What should be the combination of sidewalks, bike lanes and wide shoulders?
How: Testify in person or submit comments to Homer Advisory Planning Commission, Homer City Hall, 491 E. Pioneer Ave., Homer AK 99603 or email email@example.com